(In alphabetical order) Laettner helped lead the Blue Devils to four straight NCAA Final Fours, including national championships in 1991 and 1992. The 1992 National Player of the Year and three-time All-America, Laettner averaged 16.6 points and 7.8 rebounds for his career. His 2,460 points and 1,149 rebounds in his career rank third all-time at Duke while he holds the school record with 713 career made free throws.
Laettner was the third player taken in the 1992 NBA Draft and played 13 seasons in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards and Miami Heat.
After leading North Carolina State University to an undefeated season (27-0) in 1973, David Thompson was part of a history making Wolfpack squad that stopped John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins long string of National Championships.
Nicknamed, "Skywalker" because of his incredible 48-inch vertical leap, Thompson became the prototype for the modern “above the rim” modern player. Along with his teammates – the diminutive Monty Towe and the conversely gigantic Tommy Burleson – Thompson helped invent the most exciting play in basketball, the “alley-oop.”
Thompson finally happily broke the rule in the final non-conference game of his career with a dunk which promptly drew a technical. But that play sent a symbolic message that “slam-jam athleticism” was the wave of the future in both college and pro basketball.
N.C. State's game against the nationally 4th-ranked University of Maryland Terrapins in the 1974 ACC Tournament finale, in an era in which only conference champions were invited to the NCAA Tournament, is considered one of the best college basketball games of all time. Thompson. Towe and Burleson led the #1-ranked Wolfpack to a 103-100 win in overtime. Thompson and the Wolfpack would go on to win the national championship while Maryland sat at home. (Lefty’s guys said “no thanks” to the N.I.T.)
The Terps’ exclusion from the NCAAs, despite their high national ranking, would lead to the expansion of the NCAA Tournament the very next season to include teams other than the league champions. So credit Thompson with helping to create the “Big Dance” as well.
|Thompson, Burleson and Sloan|
At N.C. State, Thompson was a consensus first-team All-America in 1973, 1974 and 1975. He was the AP Player of the Year in 1974 and 1975 and the UPI Player of the Year in 1975. That same year, Thompson also won the coveted Naismith Award for National Player of the Year.
Thompson played in the NBA for nine years, but his career was impeded by frequent injury and substance abuse problems.